Dahlia - Plate I - Reproduction Print
One of the things that I love most about working with analog mediums is the unlimited options that I have to serve my art buyers and collectors. My first love is and will forever be handmade darkroom prints (e.g., classic silver gelatin fiber prints; the highly collectible pure platinum prints; and the artisan gumoil prints). I have received so many requests for reproduction prints over the years that I finally started to offer them in addition to my classic fine art collectible prints. But, I first had to apply the same level of rigor that I do with my classic analog fine art prints to ensure the level of quality met my criteria. I created this exposure on October 26, 2016 in the early morning light.
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I created this image of a Dahlia flower from my garden with my large format Chamonix Whole Plate camera using a paper negative. For those of you not familiar with the whole plate format, it is 6.5" x 8.5" or 16.5cm x 21.5cm which provides a massive negative for either darkroom contact printing or scanning for digital reproduction pigment prints.
The paper negative, in this case, helped me reach my creative vision because of the unique tonal range and how it handles the colors in this flower.
The next part of the puzzle was selecting the right lens that helped tell the story of this specific flower. I elected to use my vintage Rodenstock Monar F3.5 lens because of its unique optical signature. Wide open, this lens is sharp in the center and falls off to a beautiful softness. The focus of this flower was in the center for me and this lens when combined with my choice of negative substrate made it come together.
The center petals are tightly coupled in a pattern that represented a group of people that are all in unison. The outer petals are supporting characters that are more mature and experienced. It is a rare occasion in life when a large group of people come together for a single and clear purpose with a body of supporting people. My portrait of this Dahlia represents this possibility.
I developed the paper negative with a very dilute bath of Dektol for about 16 minutes by inspection. This simply means that I watch the negative develop in an open tray in the darkroom and pull it from the developer when it is at a stage that meets my vision. From this point, a classic acid stop bath and fixer and archival wash is required to complete the development process. I had to hang the negative for a few minutes to encourage the water to run off the negative before laying on a drying screen over night. I created a total of 4 exposures and selected the one that supported the story of the Dahlia.
In this photograph to the left, you see my camera setup outdoors on my work bench to create this exposure in natural light. I used an articulating arm to steady the flower because there was a light wind. I rated my paper negative at ISO 3, so the exposure is slow and susceptible to motion blur and a variety of other related and undesirable challenges. You can view more of my behind the scenes photos and videos for this plate.
Tomorrow, I am making the darkroom prints from the paper negative. My plan is to first make a split grade fiber print and selenium tone it. I may possibly explore making a pure platinum print as well, but I won't know until I complete the silver gelatin print first.
I look forward to your comments and questions.
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